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Josh Chafetz don’t know, but LBJ understands

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Since this question was brought up in comments as well, I thought I’d add my two cents about Klein/Chafetz/Frank:

1)I haven’t read Frank’s book, but I have read the Harper’s essay. I will concede that Frank sometimes has a false consciousness problem, assuming that people who disagree with him are therefore irrational. On the other hand, Chafetz dishonestly caricatures the basic point of Frank’s argument. Frank does not argue that only material values matter. Rather, he points out that poor and lower-middle-class people who vote Republican based on “cultural values” are suckers because Republicans don’t do anything about cultural values; it’s just lip service.

2)Erik recently asked, “why didn’t Al Gore connect with Southern white males?” The answers are, 1)neither has any Democrat since 1980, with the (very partial) exception of Clinton, a master once-in-a-generation politician who still lost the Deep South and the most conservative parts of the midwest anyway, 2)as LBJ pointed out when he signed the 1964 Civil Rights Act, “we’ve lost the Southern vote for 40 years.” As Dave correctly points out, Chafetz tastefully omits the content of the values he pretends to celebrate.

3)Even if it were desirable to sell out core Democratic values (and, as Dave pointed out, I’m fine with selling out non-core values like gun control), it won’t work. As Atrios has pointed out, the Democrats will never be able to out-reactionary the Republicans on gay rights, civil rights, etc. It’s a fool’s game. If Chafetz is arguing that Democrats can appeal to large numbers Southern White voters while being a pro-civil rights, pro-choice, and pro-gay rights party, he’s guilty of the reductionist vulgar Marxism he accuses Frank of.

4)In other words, I’m baffled by what people see in Chafetz’s essay. Essentially, his solution is to get rid of most of the core values that have defined the Democratic Party since LBJ, for no benefit whatsoever. It’s bad policy and bad politics–I think I’ll pass. I’m happy to leave the race-baiting and Jeebofascism to the Republicans. The Democrats’ better strategy is to write off the Deep South and focus on winning increasingly pluralist states like Nevada and Arizona, and moderate Midwestern states like Ohio.

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